in the middle
Jammu and Kashmir’s beleaguered chief minister fights for time and
credibility, writes Kavita Suri
On the fateful night of 16 March early this month, a group of
policemen including the Special Police Officers were sitting in the Police
Post Ind, Gool in the mountainous district of Udhampur when over hundred
terrorists equipped with sophisticated weapons and rocket launchers attacked
the post. Shouting slogans like “Allah-O-Akbar” and “Nara-e-Takbeer,” these
militants did not belong to one particular group. Infact various militant
outfits had joined hand together for this deadly attack. Never before in
the history of 13 years of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, had anyone witnessed
such a kind of dare devil attack wherein terrorists groups including
the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT), Al-Badr, Hizbul Mujahideen
(HM), Tehreek-e-Jehadi Islami (TeJI), Harkat-ul Mujahideen (HuM), Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen
(TuM), Peer Panjal Regiment (PPR) and newly constituted J&K National
Liberation Army (JKNLA), had executed a joint attack.
Though the attack resulted in the killings of 13 cops and two civilians,
even the Union minister of state for Home Mr I.D.Swami who visited the
police post at Ind, Gool, confessed that this setting up of Joint Coordination
Council (JCC) by different militant outfits in mountainous belts of Jammu,
had thrown a tremendous challenge before them and the security forces.
Gool was not the only incident but for the past few days, there has
been a tremendous increase in the militancy related violence in troubled
Jammu and Kashmir. Latest in the series is the massacre of 24 Kashmiri
Pandits living in the tiny hamlet of Nadimarg in South Kashmir.
Even though the sudden escalation in militant violence is being attributed
to frustration on part of militants due to Improved political environment
in the state especially in Kashmir Valley, the killings of Kashmir Pandits
in valley has put tremendous pressure on Mufti Sayeed led coalition government.
The killing of Kashmiri Pandits has come at a time when the Mufti government
was seriously planning to bring them back to the Valley and rehabilitate
them at two places -- Mattan in Anantnag and holy spring shrine of Khirbhawani
in Srinagar. Undoubtedly, these killings are a setback for Chief Minister
Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's plans to establish a safe haven for members of
the Kashmiri Pandit community driven out of Kashmir by militancy in the
valley whose rehabilitation was a major promise made by PDP's partner,
the Congress in its election manifesto. Nearly 5,000 members of the community
continue to live in the Kashmir valley. It was being claimed that a large
number of the migrant Kashmiri Pandits would be brought back and rehabilitated
at the shrine villages of Khirbhawani and Mattan.
Nandimarg massacre is first major shock to Mufti government since it
was installed on 2 November last year. This is also for the first time
after the March 2000 massacre of Sikhs at Chittisinghpura that gunmen have
conducted a major carnage in Kashmir valley. Apparently, the foreigners-dominated
militant outfits have withdrawn their support of silence to Mufti’s government
and decided to disturb it with a big spree of violence. Going by the past
events, indications are enough that with the onset of summer when the snow
would start melting and passes would be reopened, many such bloody baths
many be witnessed in troubled state.
Analysts believe that sections of militants are now visibly uncomfortable
with the new emerging situation in which Mufti has tried to marginalise
the National Conference and the separatist Hurriyat . His carrot-and-stick
policy vis-à-vis separatists, coupled with some measures of good
governance, have other forces too. This kind of situation, obviously, could
hardly be swallowed by militants.
However, with the recent upsurge in violence and the steps taken by
his government -disbanding of the Special Operations Group of the Jammu
and Kashmir Police, appeasement policy and being soft on the militants,
the release of political prisoners and other detainees and his daughter
Mehbooba Mufti going all her way to Utter Pradesh pleading the case innocent
of Kashmiri students studying in various parts of the country involved
in militancy – Mufti has come under fire from various quarters for all
Within few days of disbanding Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu
and Kashmir police, a fidayeen attack in a Hotel in border town of
Poonch exposing the chinks in the security apparatus in the state. It was
followed by the Gool incident and now the KPs massacre The sudden
spurt in violence has once again demonstrated that the militants are still
capable of hitting hard where it hurts more.
Once again the People's Democratic Front (PDP) led coalition government
has come under fire from Centre and opposition for its "soft" policy towards
militants and separatists.
PDP romped home in the state on the agenda which was till recently the
domain of Hurriyat Conference and other separatists. It was widely believed
that Mufti Mohammed Sayeed has hijacked the agenda, which was pursued by
the separatists. With Hurriyat marginalized , it was a common notion that
union government will now feel more comfortable in dealing with Mufti rather
than separatists. Because Mufti being in the mainstream mould was still
pursuing the separatist agenda which could prove beneficial for union home
Observers believe that this myth has fell apart. These attacks have
again focussed the need to deal with them with firm hand.
In all this high drama Mufti's party stand loser. The populist
slogans like "peace with dignity", "healing touch", "disbanding of controversial
special operations group of J&K police" and "revoking of POTA" have
taken a back seat. Observers feel that if the Mufti continued this policy,
he may meet the same fate which National Conference met.
Mr Sati Sahni , former Director general, Information department, J&K
government feels that the new challenge thrown by the militants to PDP
led coalition government is very serious. And it has narrowed down the
options for Mufti. If he will adopt soft policy, there are chances that
militants may resort to more deadly attacks taking advantage of the complacency
of the security force. And if he adopts proactive policy, he will loose
his public support and will be exposed before the people. And in
this scenario the National Conference stands benefited because they would
exploit the weakness of the PDP government.
“Mufti came to power on the policy of healing touch. Today, that policy
of healing touch has received very bad bashing with the Pandits’ massacre.
That has sort knocked off bottom from the healing touch. And the policy
for KPs’ return has received a setback too,”said Mr Sahni adding that Mufti
has to create new instrumentation to handle the situation with normal means
of countering the violence.
However, a number of former diplomats and defense analysts who were
incidentally in Jammu, support Mufti in his endeavor. One among those who
support Mufti in his policies is former Foreign Secretary Mr M.K.Rasgotra.
He greatly believes that five months is too short a period to judge any
government and he should be given a chance
“I think with the election and the installation of this government ,
the situation has basically has been improved. It does not mean that terrorism
menace has declined .But this government. needs to be given some space
and time to function in the right political manner, to take some developmental
activity, generate employment etc, and it will have an positive impact
on the internal situation and also in relation to Pakistan,” he said.
Rasgotra doesn’t hold Mufti’s policies responsible for the recent acts
of violence in state, Instead, he says, Pakistan is in despair, nobody
is buying their line as far as Kashmir issue is concerned and it is generating
Similar views are echoed by the Admiral K.K.Nayar who asserts that Mufti
has got his priorities right which are to restore normalcy and ensure development
and give good governance. He believes that Mufti is tackling all these
three things and goes on to add that the security from external threats
is the job of the Centre and that one cannot expect the state to take on
the state of Pakistan. He also disagrees that release of prisoners of the
disbanding of the SOG has to do something with the increase in violence.
“I do not think keeping people in jail against whom no case has been
filed for the past 10 years, ensures peaceful conditions in the state.
If the SOG had become a problem , was doing more harm, it had to be reorganized.
But to say that because these two things had been done, that he is soft
on terrorists, it is not correct,” he said adding that a policy of hot
pursuit and military action across the LoC are the things needed.
Another Mufti supporter, former top MHA official Mr Keki Daruwalla also
said that the violence has been going on since 1989 and to blame Mufti
for this would be wrong
Though Mufti may have found supporters in the top diplomats, however
back home, the National Conference has accused his government of encouraging
the militants. Militancy has got a boost under new Government while police
and security forces were demoralized, the NC says.
President of National Conference and Lok Sabha MP Omar Abdullah said
the brutal massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pandits in Kashmir should be an "eye-opener"
for the Mufti Sayeed Government in the State to shelve its "ill-conceived"
plan of bringing the minority community back to the Valley.
"The State Government plans to rehabilitate them in Mattan and Khirbhawani
places thus leaving them an easy prey for the militants," Omar said and
regretted that the Chief Minister had "neglected" the security concerns
of the minority community that remained on top of the agenda of the previous
Farooq Abdullah Government.
"Our Government could have also brought them back. But we have to see
whether we are in a position to provide them with cent per cent security
or not," Omar added.
After the Nadimarg massacre, now even the Mufti says that the situation
has to be made conducive first for the return of KPs to valley. He said
in a situation where legislators were not feeling safe, the prime need
was to improve the situation.
Nadimarg massacre might provide much needed ammunition to the opposition
to attack the government, however the fact remains that the issue of the
return of Kashmiri Pandits to their homes in Kashmir valley , has once
again been jeopardized. The community which is in exile for the past 13
years, have suffered another severe blow to their existence. EOM
Chronology of major massacres in J&K
Jan 25/26,1997: 25 Kashmiri Pandits killed at Wandhama-Ganderbal Srinagar
Mar 20 : Seven Kashmiri Pandits killed in Sangrampura (Budgam).
April 18, 1998: 27 Hindus killed in Prankote in Udhampur district in
June 19: Twenty-five Hindus killed in Chapnari area of Doda district
in Jammu region.
July 28: 16 Hindus killed in two villages of Doda district in Jammu
August 8: Thirty-five labourers killed in Kalaban on Jammu-Himachal
Feb 20, 1999: Four Hindus killed at Muraputta-Rajouri, nine at Barlyara-Udhampur
and seven at Bllala-Rajouri in Jammu.
June 30 : Fifteen Hindu labourers killed in Anantnag district of south
July 19: 15 Hindus killed at Layata in Doda district of Jammu.
February 28,2000: Five Hindu drivers killed near Qazigund in Anantnag
district of Kashmir.
Mar 20, 2000 : 35 Sikhs massacred at Chatisinghpora in Anantnag.
August 1: 31 people including Amarnath Yatris killed at Pahalgam in
August 1-2: 27 labourers gunned down in Qazigund and Achabal in Anantnag.
August 2: Seven family members killed in frontier district of Kupwara
in North Kashmir.
August 2: Eleven Hindus killed in Doda district of Jammu.
February 3,2001: Six Sikhs gunned down in Mahjoornagar in Srinagar.
Feb 11: 15 members of nomad (Gujjar) families massacred in Kot-Chadwal
in Rajouri district of Jammu.
Mar 2: Fifteen policemen and two Medical Assistant killed in Manjakote
area of Rajouri.
March 17: Eight people massacred near Atholi in Doda.
July 21: Thirteen people, including seven Amarnath pilgrims killed at
Sheshnag in Anantnag.
July 22 : 12 people massacred in Cheerji and Tagood in Doda district
August 4: Fifteen villagers killed in Ludder-Sharotid Har area of Doda.
August 6, 2002 : Nine Amarnath pilgrims killed and 29 others injured
at Nunwan base camp in Pahalgam area of Anantnag district in south Kashmir.
24 November 2002: second attack on historic Raghunath Temple
Section: Sunday Accent
Date: Apr 08,2003